Being a parent is not easy. There are the usual problems, like sickness, injuries, or expenses. There are arguments over “I want this toy,” or “I don’t want to go to sleep now.” Being a parent is great, with many joys which usually overcome those other things, but that doesn’t make it any less hard. As difficult as some of those problems are, perhaps the most difficult thing when you are a parent is seeing your children do something that you believe will be harmful to them. You teach them the dangers of certain pathways and they choose to follow them anyway. With some children, as the song from The Fantasticks says, “they did it because you said “no”.” Those children rebel because rebellion is in their nature.
One thing to understand is that God knows what it feels like. From the beginning, his creation has been prone to wander away from his pathways. It began with Eve and Adam, and has been going on since. So when we have wayward children, God says “I understand.”
The people of Israel had been in the Promised Land for over 300 years. During that time they had worshipped other gods, fallen under foreign domination, and returned to God many times. God was patient with them, but firm. But there came a time that the people told Samuel, “make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” (1 Sam 8:5) Even though God had predicted such a time hundreds of years before (Deut 17:14), Samuel was upset. He was the supposed leader of these people, and they would rather have a king “like the nations.” God had to calm Samuel down and put the incident into proper perspective.
And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. (1 Sam 8:7)
To a Christian parent, there is pain when a child falls prey to drugs and alcohol. It hurts when a child turns to crime and ends up in the hands of the law. But the greatest pain is when a child that you have “trained up” in the way that he should go, chooses to reject your faith. Some things harm the body, but can be forgiven. There is great pain over something that endangers not the body but the soul.
And yet, God reminds us, “they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me.” If there is any consolation, small that it may be, it is that God says you did your job to the best of your ability. The blame for their rejection is not laid at the feet of the parents, but of the child.
We all suffer rejection at some time or another. Rejection hurts. But there are degrees of rejection. Most of us don’t feel rejected if we are not selected in the MLB draft. Some college athletes, however, may feel rejected if they are not taken in the first round, even if they are selected in subsequent rounds. God is telling us that we may feel rejection, and it is real, we cannot feel the rejection that He feels. He is not only not being selected in the first round, He is not being selected first in the first round. God should be first, and understands our feelings of rejection because his rejection is even greater.
There is some comfort in that. Maybe not as much as we would like, but God sympathizes with us, and we sympathize with God. We are made in his image, and we can feel rejection. But so can He.